Great Meeting Unitarian Chapel
Just a stone’s throw away from the Highcross Shopping Centre, the Great Meeting Unitarian Chapel in East Bond Street has had an impact on city life since the day it was built and it remains Leicester’s earliest surviving building constructed of brick.
Built in 1708 as a “Meeting House of Protestant Dissenters", it was described by Pevsner as “one of the earliest brick buildings of any ambition in Leicester”. During the Victorian era the Unitarians became the most important and influential group within the area and in 1845 they established the Leicester Domestic Mission to help tackle the increasing physical, social and moral problems that were associated with the growth of the industrial town.
Chapel members also helped found the Mechanics Institute; the Leicester Literary and Philosophical Society and the Leicestershire Archaeological Society. Many individual members of the congregation, including John Biggs and Joseph Fielding Johnson became important and influential figures. The first seven mayors appointed to the Borough of Leicester were all Unitarians, thus earning the Great Meeting Chapel the nickname of the ‘Mayor’s Nest’. Interestingly history is now repeating itself and Sir Peter Soulsby, first elected Mayor of the City of Leicester, is also Chair of the congregation at the Great Meeting Unitarian Chapel.